YAKUTSK, Russia — Police in Russia’s Siberian region of Yakutia have detained shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev, who resumed his march to Moscow “to drive [President Vladimir] Putin out of the Kremlin.”
Aleksei Pryanishnikov, a legal coordinator of the opposition Open Russia organization, told the newspaper Novaya gazeta and MBKh media news agency that police detained Gabyshev on December 10 on a highway in Yakutia. The official reason for his detainment was not immediately clear.
Pryanishnikov told RFE/RL earlier in the day that local police unsuccessfully tried to serve a subpoena ordering Gabyshev to show up at the local police for questioning to his sister, Yekaterina Gabysheva.
Gabysheva refused to accept the subpoena and told police to hand the document to her brother personally, telling them “to look for her brother on the roads leading to Moscow.”
Pryanishnikov said police also tried to hand the subpoena to a Gabyshev supporter, Yevgeny Rostokin, but he also refused to take the document. Rostokin was then briefly detained for questioning.
Gabyshev’s supporters told RFE/RL on December 8 that the shaman had restarted his march the day before with two followers, Aleksei and Kirill, and four Siberian Laika dogs, even though the average temperature in Yakutia is around minus 44 degrees Celsius recently.
Rostokin earlier said that the order issued by a local branch of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) barring Gabyshev from leaving the capital of Yakutia, Yakutsk, expired in mid-October.
RFE/RL’s correspondents were unable to communicate directly with Gabyshev.
On December 3, Yakutia’s Supreme Court rejected a motion by Gabyshev’s lawyers to consider illegal and ungrounded the decision to launch an extremism case against their client.
Gabyshev covered more than 2,000 kilometers on foot after he began his journey began in March, speaking with hundreds of people along the way. As his notoriety rose, videos of his conversations with people have appeared on social media, attracting millions of views.
In July, when he reached the city of Chita, Gabyshev gathered some 700 people under the slogan “Russia without Putin!” The shaman said then that “God told me Putin is not a human, but instead a demon and has ordered me to drive him out.”
After his detainment in the region of Buryatia in September, authorities transferred Gabyshev to Yakutia, where he was first placed in a psychiatric clinic and later released.
Gabyshev was told he was suspected of inciting extremism among Russian citizens and ordered not to leave Yakutsk.
Earlier in October, psychiatrists in Yakutsk said Gabyshev was mentally unstable, but his lawyers, who feared that a court could sent their client to a psychiatric clinic for forced treatment, rejected the medical conclusion and arranged an examination by independent experts.
In September, Pryanishnikov told RFE/RL that independent experts concluded that Gabyshev was mentally sound, did not need treatment in a psychiatric clinic, and was not a danger to society.
Open Russia’s human rights coordinator, Valentina Dekhtyarenko, told RFE/RL in October that although Gabyshev was a suspect in a criminal case, he had not been officially charged with any crimes.
Shamans have served as healers and diviners in Siberia for centuries. During the Soviet era of “science and reason,” the mystical figures were harshly repressed. But in isolated regions of Siberia, they are regaining importance.